Milkweed seeds have to get cold before they’ll germinate (cold stratification) so late fall is the best time to plant them outdoors. Take a walk and gather some milkweed pods. (Leave some behind for nature!) Remove the floss and plant the seeds.
Separating the floss from the seeds can be time consuming if you don’t know these tips.
When the pods are about to burst you can pop them open, grab the bundle tightly and push the seeds off with your thumb.
However, many pods have already burst in southwestern Pennsylvania so you’ll want to use a “mechanical” method to separate the floss.
For small batches, shake the fluff+seeds with coins in a paper bag or a food storage container.
Enormous batches call for enormous solutions, as demonstrated by Monarch Watch. Yow!
Since I’m not a gardener I have no advice about planting milkweed but here’s an excellent article that tells you everything you need to know: How to Germinate and Grow Milkweed Seeds by American Meadows.
UPDATE: Several people have recommended planting Swamp Milkweed instead of Common Milkweed because it’s a much easier plant. See Claire’s comment below.
p.s. The floss is beautiful but annoying when it flies around indoors. If it gets away from you, it will give you more to do this weekend. 😉
Pittsburgh’s weather has been down-and-up from 30 degrees F + snow on Monday to 70 degrees F + sun today. By the end of the week it was fun to spend time outdoors.
On Friday I noted that most trees in the City of Pittsburgh still have leaves but few were as colorful as the sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), above, in Scheney Park. American goldfinches moved among the leaves searching for seeds in the sweetgum balls.
The return of warm weather reactivated insects who were hiding from the cold. On Thursday a leaf-footed bug walked up our living room window.
White-tailed deer seem to be everywhere, especially in the city parks. The rut is in progress so the deer are less wary of people and cars. Meanwhile small trees in Schenley Park show new damage after bucks rub the velvet off their antlers.
Some trees have the perfect defense against such assaults. Large thorns adorn the trunks of honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos). No buck rubs here!
The warm weather will continue next week. It’s (still!) time to get outdoors.
Yesterday damp weeds brushed our clothing as two friends and I walked a creek side trail in the drizzle. When we got back to our cars we checked for black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and found many on our clothing. I also found one on the car seat where I’d dropped off my backpack and gloves. Yikes!
You don’t have to go far to find them. Of course they are in the woods but they’re also found in backyards in Allegheny County. Damp weeds are a favorite habitat. Click on this photo of Japanese barberry to read why.
Needless to say I felt itchy all over after finding the ticks. When I got home I took a careful shower and put all my clothes in a hot dryer for 10+ minutes. Really. Dryers desiccate ticks. In 10 minutes they’re all dead.
These arborvitae cones were on the ground at a pine siskin hotspot. Three stages are pictured: Top = Spent cones as much as one year old, Middle = Opened cones that were emptied by pine siskins, Bottom = a mix of closed, opened and spent cones.
The huge acorn crop in Schenley Park is attracting many blue jays, squirrels and chipmunks. Here’s what the ground looks like below the oaks at Bartlett Shelter.
In other delights October trees, sky and shadows are spectacular.
Yesterday at Frick Park I found woolly aphids that wouldn’t move. This was a disappointment because I expected them to boogie woogie (like this!). They had all the right characteristics. They were:
White and fluffy,
Clinging to narrow branches, in this case shrub-like tree trunks,
There was a black substance on the trunk below their colony, sooty mold that grows on their accumulated honeydew.
Bees and yellowjackets were feeding on the honeydew seep.
Here are two more photos showing them individually and collectively.
I tried to get them to dance but they refused. I believe they were on alders so that would make them woolly alder aphids.
If you’d like to see them for yourself, look below eye level on slender trunks of shrubs next to Nine Mile Run about 20 steps to the left of the park bench that views the creek. Approximately here: 40.427685, -79.901373.
All summer we noticed curly dock (Rumex crispus) leaves and not the flowers. Now our attention is reversed because the seeds have turned a rich brown. The stalk is ugly, however the seeds are fascinating up close, each one surrounded by the calyx that produced them. The papery wings allow them to float on water and fly a bit in the wind.
The most obvious sign of fall is the temperature. 43 degrees F at dawn today. Speaking of gloves, you’ll need them when you go birding in the morning.